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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1789

Mr RONALD EDWARDS(9.43) —One of the real pleasures of being part of this Labor Government is to go around the country and find considerable support for the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and for the job he is doing. One of the things that stands out is that he is obviously putting in a lot of hard work. He is getting a very good response and a good reception from people overseas and members of the community. That has been an important and very significant gain. One of the things that has emerged in this Parliament is an attempt to develop some bipartisanship on a number of foreign affairs issues. I will mention those in a moment. I identify four characteristics as belonging to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. One is his willingness to consult. The second is the process of developing an independent Australian foreign policy. That is a difficult process but he is doing it and he deserves congratulations for it. Thirdly, he is asserting the fact that we have economic and foreign relationships, that they are linked together and that we need to try to develop them jointly. The fourth element is that we are now changing from what one might call a more passive approach to a more active and independent approach to foreign policy. That is not easy. As the honourable member for McPherson (Mr White), who has just resumed his seat, indicated that brings us into some conflict with our Association of South East Asian neighbours. I think that, in the context of this debate, it is important that we take the side of our Foreign Minister as opposed to that of the ASEAN countries. We will not always see eye to eye and I have no doubt that if the question arises I will certainly support the Australian Foreign Minister as distinct from our ASEAN neighbours. This is a very demanding area and it is a difficult issue to debate and negotiate. I believe that the Minister is doing an excellent job and I believe that we would help him by supporting him in all respects.

If we look at the issues with which Australia is currently confronted, we see that we are in a very dangerous environment. I shall just list those issues: The downing of KAL-007, the bombing in Rangoon last weekend, the issues over East Timor and Kampuchea, the question of aid to Vietnam, the sad and tragic situation in the Lebanon, the problems in Nicaragua and El Salvador and the reality of the deployment of Soviet SS20 and United States Pershing and cruise missiles. When we put all of those factors together, I believe that we ought to recognise in this place that the job of the Foreign Minister is a difficult, very demanding and very important one. It is not for us to try to find fault with it but to try to give substantial support to it. I believe that the Australian community is giving support to it and that there are those opposite who, sensibly, support it. My intention tonight is certainly to give that support.

My colleague the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Bilney) wishes shortly to elaborate on a couple of points. I wish to deal with a couple of issues that have come up very recently. One is the question of the oil at Jabiru. I believe that one of the important issues that we will have to face there is the ability to assert Australian sovereignty over that oil field. There will be some difficult negotiations. It is important that we establish our sovereignty there and, if there are any difficulties with Indonesia, we certainly must exert our rights.

Another important issue, the one that has been alluded to, is the question of flights to South Africa. Under the previous Prime Minister we were not encouraged to use flights to South Africa. It is our approach to discourage that and I believe that we will be asking in this chamber what the Opposition's attitude is to that matter. Is it to continue the policy of the previous Prime Minister of discouraging and forbidding Australian politicians from travelling on flights to South Africa?

Another important issue for Australia is the decline in the Government of the Philippines. With the assassination of Benigno Aquino, the fabric of government in the Philippines is being broken down. One of the concerns that I have expressed in this place is that I believe the rule of law does not prevail in the Philippines. It is important that we recognise that fact in this place. One of the concerns for the Western Australian community, of course, is the question of Father Brian Gore. We hope that Father Brian Gore is being represented effectively by Australian Embassy officials in the Philippines.

I wish to deal with one particular aspect that I believe is important in our foreign policy and foreign aid. That is the question of developing co-operative ventures between Australia and other countries with respect to foreign aid. It is important that we look at one aspect that is coming up, that is, the joint venture with the Government of Papua New Guinea concerning the development of the Ok Tedi copper concentrate project on the Fly River in Papua New Guinea. One of the proposals that is currently before the Government of Papua New Guinea is the proposal by Lombardo Marine in Australia for a joint venture with the Government of Papua New Guinea. It is a very important approach to foreign aid and to foreign policy because it envisages a co-operative venture between an Australian company and a Papua New Guinean operation. It also envisages joint employment.

Australia, through Lombardo Marine, which, I might add, is based in Western Australia, in providing those barging services to the coast for the copper concentrate from Kiunga to Daru-a journey of about 800 kilometres-could provide an important operation with respect to a joint venture with the Government of Papua New Guinea. As I said earlier, I think we need in our foreign policy and our foreign aid to provide a capacity for joint ventures. This is an important joint venture, because it envisages the training of Papua New Guinean personnel and it will certainly result in employment both in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. I believe that engaging in such ventures is the important and proper way to go.

The Australian Government has made a commitment to the building of fast light naval patrol boats. This commitment was given at the South Pacific Forum. Again, this is the sort of arena in which a company such as Lombardo Marine can make a major contribution. I believe that, under this Minister, we are working towards an independent and statesmanlike foreign policy. It is a difficult and very important task. As I have indicated, there are important issues on the foreign policy agenda at the moment which we cannot afford to take lightly. I commend the work of the Foreign Minister as would, I believe, the Australian community.